Northern Ireland

Constituency Profile: Sinn Féin will strive to hold ground in Mid Ulster

Outgoing MP Francie Molloy steps down

The constituency of Mid Ulster runs from Lough Neagh to the Sperrin Mountains
The constituency of Mid Ulster runs from Lough Neagh to the Sperrin Mountains

Sinn Féin will be determined to hold its ground in the tactically important constituency of Mid Ulster when the north goes to the polls on July 4.

Nestled between the Sperrin mountains and Lough Neagh, the majority nationalist district, which takes in parts of Co Derry and Co Tyrone, is strategically important for republicans and is the home constituency of First Minister Michaelle O’Neill, who is also an MLA for the area.

Outgoing MP and veteran republican representative Francie Molly held the seat for his party since 2013, after it was vacated by former First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Republicans have continuously held the Mid Ulster seat, traditionally an important battle ground for nationalists, since 1997 when former DUP incumbent William McCrea was unseated by Mr McGuinness.

Once again, the high-profile seat is poised to change hands after Mr Molloy confirmed his intention to step down.

He has been replaced on the Sinn Féin ticket by sitting Mid Ulster councillor Cathal Mallaghan.

Although relatively well known in his native east Tyrone, party officials will be working hard to raise his profile in the south Derry end of the Mid Ulster electoral area.

Sinn Féin number crunchers will hope the party brand helps Mr Mallaghan to equal, or better, the 20,473 votes captured by Mr Molloy in 2019.

On that outing Sinn Féin’s nearest challenge came from the DUP’s Keith Buchanan, who captured 10,936 votes.

The sitting MLA will be hoping to exceed that return this time around.

Earlier this year the UUP’s Jay Basra revealed how he has received racist abuse online.

He will want to build on the 2,611 votes his party’s candidate received the last time Westminster elections were held.

The SDLP’s challenge is fronted by long-standing activist Denise Johnston, who polled 6,384 votes five years ago.

Since then, the south Derry based schoolteacher was elected to Mid Ulster council and will be hopeful that newfound platform boosts her fortunes on the bigger stage.

Alixandra Halliday has taken up the baton for anti-abortion party Aontú and no doubt will aim to top the 1,305 she secured in the 2022 assembly elections.

Mid Ulster
Mid Ulster